Why Servant had to end with that epic confrontation between Dorothy and Leanne
WARNING: This post contains spoilers from Servant seasons 1-4.
For four seasons, Servant has focused on the psychological and supernatural travails of four characters: Sean (Toby Kebbell), Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose), Julian (Rupert Grint), and Leanne (Nell Tiger Free). But the complicated surrogate mother-daughter relationship between Dorothy and Leanne has gradually taken center stage. The Servant cast and showrunner M. Night Shyamalan teased EW ahead of the season 4 premiere that the conflict between Dorothy and Leanne would play a major part in the show's final act, and lo and behold — the series finale, which hit Apple TV+ on Friday, culminates in a climactic confrontation between the two on the rooftop of the Philadelphia apartment that has housed Servant's secrets.
They've come a long way since the first episode. Leanne was originally hired by the Turner family to be a nanny for their baby Jericho. The baby had actually died before the show began, but Dorothy was in such deep denial about it that Sean and Julian introduced a lifelike doll to take Jericho's place. Leanne was hired almost as a joke by them, but astonished everyone by reintroducing a human baby into the household who she claimed was Jericho. Was this a con, or a legitimate resurrection? The question has hung over the show ever since.
In the subsequent seasons, Leanne has demonstrated more and more seemingly supernatural abilities. In the series finale, her powers seem to be throwing all of nature out of balance: Storms ravaging the sky, sinkholes opening in the middle of Philadelphia streets. Only Dorothy can really talk to her.
"I realized that there are two storylines to the show," Shyamalan tells EW. "There's the mother who doesn't remember [her child's death], and then the mythology of a girl who's left a tragic backstory of her own. That was always there, but then it grew into understanding that those two storylines are the flip of each other. One is a mother who didn't get a chance to be a mother, and then a child who didn't have a mother. When I thought of it like that, then I went, 'oh, okay. The only way that we're, that anybody's gonna stop this young woman from becoming this horrific entity, is the love of a mother.' I was like well, that's where our 40 episodes are going."
It took four seasons, but in the penultimate episode last week, Sean and Julian finally came clean to Dorothy and told her the truth about Jericho — how he had died in a hot car while Dorothy was stressed out from motherhood, while Sean and Julian had basically abandoned her. It was a hard truth to hear — but a necessary one.
Shyamalan tells EW that the initial plan was to tell Dorothy the truth early. But he and the other Servant writers soon realized her journey to understanding was the whole story of the show.
"Here's how it really went: 'Hey, let's wake her up in episode three,'" Shyamalan says with a laugh. "Then I went, 'okay, but then what's better than that? Let's just push it. Let's keep writing more episodes. Maybe let's push it to episode six. Okay.' Then we kept going, and I went, 'wait wait, I'm not ready to wake her up. Let's do the backstory instead, the reveal of what happened to baby Jericho. We'll do it at the end of the last episode of the first season.' But even then I was still like, 'no, wait, the story feels over if I let them have that conversation.' And when I didn't do it, then is when I went, 'oh, we're gonna do it at the end of the show. That's the only time to do it. As soon as she wakes up, the show's over.'"
Shyamalan continues, "then the question was, 'can we do that for 40 episodes? Can we do 39 episodes with her essentially asleep?' And I was like, 'yeah, we can, because that's what the tension and the weirdness of everything is.'"
Now, after all that tension and weirdness, the truth is out, and relationships have come to their explosive climax. All of Servant is streaming now on Apple TV+.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.